# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Kevin Devine - Bulldozer

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 16 / 11 / 2013

Kevin Devine - Bulldozer
Label: Big Scary Monsters
Format: CD


Appealing seventh and eighth albums from Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Kevin Devine, which both have been released on the same day, and one of which 'Bubblegum' has a punk/pop edge, while the other and stronger album 'Bulldozer' has an experimental sound

Brooklyn-based Kevin Devine isn’t the only artist to release two full-length albums on the same day, but, not only has he avoided the usual trap of spreading one great album over two discs bulked up with filler, he actually raised over 114,000 US dollars via a Kickstart campaign to fund the albums. ‘Bubblegum’ is Devine’s eighth album and is a full-band effort where Devine is backed by the Goddamn Band and produced by Brand New’s Jesse Lacey. ‘Bubblegum’ kicks off with ‘Nobel Prize’, all pent-up energy, raging, angular guitar and throbbing bass but, like the majority of this album, the song is chock-full of hooks that make the songs irresistible.‘Private First Class’ follows, and again, although a little more subdued than its predecessor initially, it doesn’t take long before those same guitar sounds leap from the speakers. Despite the lyrics being based on the imprisonment of Bradley Manning for leaking classified documents in Iraq, it’s another sing-along of turbo-powered pop/punk that instantly connects. It also drives home that this is a very American sounding collection of songs. It’s not all "let’s see how soon we can reach the end of this song" though. When Devine and his band slow things down a little on songs such as ‘I Can’t Believe You’ and ‘Red Bird’, it displays the more creative side of both songwriter Devine and his fellow band mates drummer Mike Fadem and guitarist Mike Strandberg, who along with producer Lacey helping out on bass and percussion, provide the controlled wall of sound that ‘Bubblegum’ ultimately proves to be. ‘Bloodhound’ is a stand out song on this album, that wall of fuzz guitars complimenting Devine’s unusually airy vocals perfectly. While this raucous set of songs proves that Devine and company can turn out catchy punk/pop anthems with ease there is really nothing here that separates ‘Bubblegum’ from any other turbo-charged collection, of which there are many. The aforementioned slower songs, ‘I Can’t Believe You’ and ‘Red Bird’, demonstrate that Devine’s dense sound can work extremely well and when it all comes together, when Devine combines his love of catchy melodies with his punk/rock rather than punk/pop sensibilities as on the title track and ‘Bloodhound’, Devine actually manages to inject new life into an old formula. It’s not as instantly appealing as it should be; some of these songs, however, need a little work on the listeners side to really be appreciated. ‘Bubblegum’ is very much a grower, but in these days when attention spans are shorter than ever one wonders if enough people are going to give this album the attention it needs to really get into your system. The title of the closing song, ‘I Don’t Care About Your Band’ (actually one of the most interesting songs on ‘Bubblegum’), is a little ironic. One can imagine many listeners giving up on the album after the first two songs thinking that there was nothing new or interesting on offer when, in fact, given a little time, ‘Bubblegum’ slowly reveals that there are many hidden treasures here. ‘Bulldozer’ is being promoted as Devine’s “solo album laced with electric folk-rock and pop ballads”. So, that’s sorted then. It’s not an inaccurate description but coming straight off from listening to ‘Bubblegum’ in many ways it doesn’t really do the ten songs that comprise ‘Bulldozer’ justice. From the off, ‘Now Navigate’, which opens the album, shows that, while the sometimes pretty melodies of ‘Bubblegum’ were hidden by that wall of guitars here they are clear and right in your face. Despite Devine still lyrically being sharp and interesting (‘From Here’ for example was written in the days after Hurricane Sandy and is remarkably optimistic), the difference with this set of songs is that they hit home instantly. Over ten songs, some acoustic based, others far from what you’d expect from a ‘solo’ album being a more full-band sound, Devine utilises a much wider musical palette than he did on ‘Bubblegum’. To say ‘Bulldozer’ is the more interesting and ultimately more rewarding album is something of an understatement. It’s not only lyrically that Devine shines here. There are songs on ‘Bubblegum’ that, if stripped of the dominating wall of sound, reveal that Devine is a smart lyricist, but the whole thing works so much better in this setting. Devine writes pretty melodies for the most part, and, while he’s not the first to drown those melodies in swaths of unusual or unsettling sounds, on ‘Bulldozer’ those melodies, although often embellished by gentler sounds, are left to shine without too many distractions. ‘Couldn’t Be Happier’ is one of the mellower songs where Devine’s light as a feather vocals float over one his prettiest melodies to create what must be one of Devine’s best ever songs. Devine and producer Rob Schnapf (who has worked with Elliott Smith, Guided By Voices and Beck) provide most of the music on ‘Bulldozer’, and with Russell Pollard on drums and Elijah Thomson taking the bass parts this is a band that works so well together. But actually what makes many of these songs is the vocals; Devine really shines vocally on every track. Then, of course, when you add a singer like Isobel Campbell (Gentle Waves, Belle & Sebastian) into the mix things can only get better. ‘For Eugene’, another song written in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, takes on an extra layer of emotion due to Campbell’s vocal contribution. The initial confusion as to why Devine would release two albums simultaneously is made clear once you listen to the two albums back to back. While ‘Bubblegum’ certainly has its moments and is far from a mediocre collection of punk/rock and pop songs, ‘Bulldozer’ is the album where Devine stretches his wings and finds a new and interesting direction for his songs. Both albums are worth a listen, but, for now at least, ‘Bulldozer’ is the one that is proving harder to put back in the case.

Track Listing:-
1 Now: Navigate!
2 Little Bulldozer
3 From Here
4 Couldn't Be Happier
5 You Brushed Her Breath Aside
6 The Worm in Every Apple
7 Matter of Time
8 She Can See Me
9 For Eugene
10 Safe

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